Nineteen churches responded to my anything but scientific survey. States represented were as follows. Tennessee—9; Texas—4; Arkansas—2; Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio—1 each. The largest church was 1500 in average attendance, and the smallest was in the 150-200 range. Nine of the 18 churches are in the 400-600 range, three around 200-300, three at 750, and four averaged 1000-1200. All of these congregations were from the Churches of Christ.
The average giving per attendee for all 19 churches was $40.51. One church reported giving of $54 per attendee, two churches were at $53, and two were at $25. Eleven of the 18 churches fell in the $35 to $42 giving range.
The churches were generally affluent, solid middle to upper middle class demographically. Some obviously “had more money” than others. Of the two $25 per attendee churches, one was decidedly more blue collar than the other churches. I am sure if I polled more rural churches the average would have been much lower.
Ten years ago “good giving” was defined as $40 per attendee. For a blue collar/rural church, $40 per attendee would still be excellent. For an upper middle class church, $40 per attendee is not especially noteworthy, in my opinion at least.
I hesitate to make many generalizations about the reasons for the differences from the top to the bottom. A couple of things do come to mind.
- Some churches had undergone campaigns over the past few years. Total giving counting campaign receipts would have skewed their numbers upwards.
- No two churches are alike. The only difference between Church A and Church B could be one family. Even one “big giver” could bump a $35 per attendee church up to $42.
- Giving capacity obviously impacts giving. A church full of teachers and plumbers will not be able to match the giving of a church filled with professionals and business owners. A glance at the parking lot can tell you a lot about what the giving will be.
Only two churches had endowments, and both were tied to specific endeavors. No church was doing anything proactively to pursue estate gifts, although a handful of congregations had received estate gifts in the past. This finding was no surprise.